Christmas, which marks the birth of Jesus Christ, is celebrated with lots of fun, excitement and gaiety the world over. But in Germany, celebrations for Christmas, which is known as Weihnachten there, are more somber as compared to other countries around the world like the US and the UK.
Though streets, offices and houses are decorated with Christmas trees and lights, the celebrations are low key as people are in soulful and somber mood. The celebrations are nothing out of the extraordinary.
In Germany, Christmas tree made it first appearance in 1605 in Strasburg. Initially, roses made of paper, apples, wafers and wax candles were used to decorate the tree. Nowadays, Christmas ornaments made of glass or china, nuts, candies, and Christmas lights adorn the tree.
Advent, St Nicholas Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day form an integral part of the Christmas celebration in the country.
Advent, which begins on the Sunday after November 26, marks the start of the Christmas festival season. As the days progress, the excitement level of the people increases with most of them indulging themselves by shopping gifts for themselves and their loved ones.
Most of the Germans decorate their house with Advent Wreath, which is made of pine branches. Four candles are put on the wreath. Families get together on the first Sunday of Advent and light first candle and sing carols. The act is repeated is on the second, third and fourth Sunday of the Advent but the only difference is that two candles are lit on the second, three on the third and all four on the fourth Sunday, immediately prior to Christmas.
In earlier days, Christmas trees were not unveiled before Christmas Eve so all the family members used to get around wreath, light candles and sing carols.
Children across Germany look forward to St. Nicholas Day, which is observed on December 6, in great anticipation as it is on this day they get goodies from their parents and loved ones. On December 5 night, they keep a shoe or stocking in their room or a window and find it full of sweets, chocolates, cookies, nut and fruit the next morning.
Shops are open till afternoon on Christmas Eve, or the Holy Night as it is known in Germany. Final touches are given to the Christmas tree by decorating it with apples and cookies. Presents for the children are kept around the tree. Children are then called to see the Christmas tree and receive their presents by ringing a bell. After Christmas carols are sung, sumptuous dinner is served for the family members and close relatives. The family members later attend a midnight mass.
Christmas day, which is a public holiday throughout the world, is often used to meet relatives and exchange gifts. Goose is the favorite delicacy served in the main menu on this day.
Christmas in Germany is incomplete unless you visit a Christmas Market or Christkindlmarkt, as it is known in Germany. The market offers a great opportunity to families to spend time together and have fun. A great variety of baked goods, sweets, toys and Christmas decorations are up for sale in these markets. These markets start functioning before the first Sunday of Advent and end on the forenoon of December 24.
Nuremberg's Christkindlesmarkt is one of the oldest markets in Germany. All the stalls in the market are tastefully decorated with lights and fir branches.
Another legend associated with Christmas in Germany is Christ Child or Christkind, who is elected after every two years by the people of Nuremberg and is entrusted with the task of inaugurating the Christmas market by reciting a prologue. Girls, who are in the age group of 16 to 19 years, are not smaller than 1m 60cm and who are not afraid of heights are eligible to become Christ Child.
Newspapers in Nuremberg carry the details about all the applicants and readers vote for their favorites. However, the final decision rests with the jury which comprises of the previous Christ Child, media representatives and heads of tourist and market offices.
Though Christmas in Germany may be a low-key affair devoid of any extravagance, there is no doubt that it is fascinating and interesting.